In the battle against a massive shortage of student houses in the Netherlands, the cabinet has come up with a national action plan to build 60,000 additional homes over the next eight years. The project was developed together with municipalities, educational institutions, housing associations, private investors and students. The new accommodations will be created partly through new constructions and partly the conversion of existing buildings, reports FD newspaper.
Last year there was an estimated deficit of more than 26,000 student homes across the country. The Knowledge Center Student Housing foundation, Kences, says this shortage could increase to 60,000 if no action is taken. The deficit is even higher in cities like Amsterdam, Leiden, Nijmegen, Rotterdam, Den Bosch and Utrecht. This is due to the large number of international students coming to the Netherlands.
“Every student should be given the opportunity to live in their own room. It’s a special moment to leave your parents’ home and to take a step towards independence. To be able to make this choice, sufficient student housing is needed. That is why we are joining forces with various parties to offer 60,000 extra affordable student houses in the next 8 years,” says the Minister for Housing and Spatial Planning, Hugo de Jonge.
Efforts are being made to accelerate the construction of 37,500 flexible housing units in the next two years. Furthermore, the cabinet agreed with municipalities to accommodate more students in municipalities near university towns and to provide temporary accommodation on campus.
When presenting the action plan, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science noted the situation of students from abroad. Because of their immediate housing needs, they are more likely to be victims of housing market discrimination. Short stay leases mean they have less legal protection. In order to improve their safety while renting, it’s necessary to develop a more suitable rental agreement for international students. For Jun Lee (20), from South Korea, it was not an option to not come to the Netherlands. He is looking forward to living in Amsterdam and his studies. Yet, his opening sentence when he meets Dutch people is: “Do you know anyone who rents out a room?”
The minister of Education, Culture and Science, Robert Dijkgraaf, says it’s clear that something has to be done towards the problem. “It takes students a lot of time, stress and energy to find a room. Your room is the place where you will find the peace and space to discover who you are and what you want to do with your life. Every student deserves such a place. With this action plan we can work together to tackle the major challenges around this matter.” Many students are forced to continue living with their parents, depriving them of this crucial step in their journey towards adulthood. Of the 768,300 students in the Netherlands who still live at home, 69 percent indicate that they are forced to stay with their parents due to a shortage of (affordable) student rooms.
The student union, Asva, calls the current situation appalling. “We get desperate messages every day from students who are stressed because they don’t know where they will sleep next week. Their continuous stress and feelings of despair come at the expense of their studies. You can’t study like that,” says board member Bor van Zeeland. In addition, scarcity drives up rental prices. One issue is the rising number of international students, discussed also elsewhere in this Holland Times. “We’d rather not propose it, but there’s no option: stop offering English-taught courses to limit the influx of international students. At least until this problem is solved,” says Van Zeeland. However, this is more difficult than it sounds. Until then, the government’s new plan at least offers a solution on the longer term.
Written by Raphael Perachi Vieira